President Robert Mugabe was more tolerant of the Movement for Democratic Change during the run-up to the 2005 elections because either he had a plan of ensuring that the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front would win without resorting to violence or he wanted the MDC to win because he had no clear successor.
This was the opinion of two sitting MDC Members of Parliament Willias Madzimure and Job Sikhala who predicted that the MDC would win 60 seats or more in the elections.
Asked by United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell why there was less violence in the run-up to the elections Madzimure said he was worried that Mugabe had some other plan for ensuring ZANU-PF supremacy, perhaps in the counting of the ballots, and that he knew he would not need to rely on violence.
He said Mugabe might also have been influenced by international pressure and by a desire to ensure that the elections were seen as legitimate.
Mugabe knew that political violence might not work in ZANU-PF’s favour and that, if ZANU-PF must lose, it would be better to lose in a peaceful environment.
Sikhala suggested that Mugabe might even want the MDC to win because he had no clear successor in ZANU-PF and that the MDC would treat a retired Mugabe better than would members of a factionalised ZANU-PF with scores to settle.
Madzimure and Sikhala said another possibility was that Mugabe falsely believed that ZANU-PF would win the elections without violence because his advisors were lying to him about ZANU-PF’s prospects.
They also suggested that Mugabe might be concerned with protecting his legacy and wanted a peaceful election before he stepped down.
Madzimure and Sikhala said, however, that ZANU-PF would not win Matabeleland without Jonathan Moyo because the Ndebele did not identify with John Nkomo and had no other emotional ties to ZANU-PF.
Viewing cable 05HARARE384, MDC CANDIDATES OPTIMISTIC
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000384
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE, D. TEITELBAUM
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010
SUBJECT: MDC CANDIDATES OPTIMISTIC
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i. Eric T. Schultz under Section 1.
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The Ambassador met February 23 with three
MDC officials: sitting Ministers of Parliament Willias
Madzimure and Job Sikhala who are defending their seats, and
MDC candidate for Parliament Goodrich Chibaira. The
candidates were optimistic that the MDC would do well in the
elections, especially given that political violence was much
lower than in the past. They offered various theories as to
why President Mugabe had directed that the elections be
non-violent, including international pressure, a desire to
retire gracefully, or because he was falsely confident that
ZANU-PF could win without violence. The three MDC officials
agreed that a government of national unity following the
elections might provide a resolution to Zimbabwe,s crisis.
Less Political Violence
¶2. (C) Willias Madzimure and Job Sikhala are both incumbent
MDC M.P.s in constituencies in Harare and are running in the
March 31 election. Goodrich Chibaira, also an MDC candidate
in a Harare constituency, is a first-time candidate. All
three MDC officials reported continuing low levels of
violence compared to 2000 and 2002. There were some
incidents. Sikhala for instance said there had been some
altercations between ZANU-PF and MDC supporters after one of
the rallies in Harare and that the police had not arrested
the ZANU-PF supporters who had inciteded the incidents.
However, Sikhala and Madzimure confirmed that levels of
violence were clearly lower this election.
¶3. (C) Sikhala attributed the lack of violence to President
Mugabe,s public statements that no political violence would
be tolerated. This marked a major change from the past, when
Mugabe himself called for and incited violence. Even lower
levels of party and government structures were heeding the
call for non-violence, albeit reluctantly. Sikhala said the
MDC leadership had barred officials from verbally attacking
Mugabe personally and that Mugabe was also attacking MDC as
an institution rather than individuals within the party.
Madzimure also noted that in contrast with past elections,
there was no military command center running the ZANU-PF
campaign. Sikhala added that Mugabe and Mujuru were
themselves campaigning instead of using soldiers and war
veterans to campaign. Without Mugabe directing violence and
with the reduced involvement of the military and war
veterans, all three officials predicted there would be very
little violence this time.
¶4. (C) In response to the Ambassador,s question as to why
there was less violence, Madzimure said he worried that
Mugabe had some other plan for ensuring ZANU-PF supremacy,
perhaps in the counting of the ballots, and that he knew he
would not need to rely on violence. He said Mugabe might
also have been influenced by international pressure and by a
desire to ensure that the elections were seen as legitimate.
Mugabe knew that political violence might not work in
ZANU-PF,s favor and that, if ZANU-PF must lose, it would be
better to lose in a peaceful environment. Sikhala suggested
that Mugabe might even want the MDC to win because he had no
clear successor in ZANU-PF and that the MDC would treat a
retired Mugabe better than would members of a factionalized
ZANU-PF with scores to settle. Madzimure and Sikhala said
another possibility was that Mugabe falsely believed that
ZANU-PF would win the elections without violence because his
advisors were lying to him about ZANU-PF,s prospects.
Finally, both Madzimure and Sikhala suggested that Mugabe
might be concerned with protecting his legacy and wanted a
peaceful election before he stepped down.
¶5. (C) Madzimure and Sikhala both predicted the MDC would win
with 60 seats or more out of 120 elected seats, due to
voters, awareness that ZANU-PF had done nothing in five
years to improve their daily lives. They said that, with
continued low levels of political violence, Zimbabweans would
feel free to vote as they wished — for the MDC. Madzimure
said that voters were most interested in better employment,
pensions, health, and education, and knew that ZANU-PF did
not care about those issues. Sikhala added that ZANU-PF had
won the last election by fraud but with more open elections
this time, they would not win a majority of the elected seats
or an overall two-thirds majority. The MDC would retain its
ability to block unilateral constitutional change and could
force ZANU-PF to the negotiating table.
National Unity Government?
¶6. (C) Madzimure said that a source of his within ZANU-PF had
heard top party leaders discussing the possibility of
negotiating a national government of unity with the MDC. The
MDC leadership was also quietly discussing this possibility,
in particular as a means to a new constitution. Sikhala said
that some MDC supporters would not be happy with the idea of
a power-sharing arrangement because they counted on the MDC
to provide new ideas after years of ZANU-PF mismanagement of
politics and the economy. However, following a discussion of
what the MDC might gain from a place in government, such as
the ability to deliver services to constituents and the like,
he embraced the idea along with his colleagues as a way
forward that could resolve Zimbabwe,s crisis peacefully.
Madzimure added that ZANU-PF leaders were willing to consider
unity with the MDC due to deep divisions within ZANU-PF.
There was a backlash against the Zezuru ethnic group to which
Mugabe and Vice-President Joyce Mujuru belonged and an
anti-Zezuru group was forming to counter a perceived attempt
by Mugabe to fill all top leadership positions with Zezuru.
¶7. (C) Madzimure and Sikhala said ZANU-PF would not win
Matabeleland without Jonathan Moyo because the Ndebele did
not identify with John Nkomo and had no other emotional ties
to ZANU-PF. Sikhala said that Moyo was running as an
independent solely as retribution against ZANU-PF because his
candidacy would split the ZANU-PF vote and ensure that
ZANU-PF candidate could not win.
¶8. (C) All MDC candidates agreed that international pressure
was an important factor in ZANU-PF,s decision to reduce the
level of political violence. They expressed appreciation for
U.S. policy toward Zimbabwe but Sikhala said he thought
Zimbabwe should not be compared with the other &outposts of
tyranny,” Most of which had never had elections. Mugabe had
always had elections, even if they were &done wrong.8
¶9. (C) The lower levels of political violence thus far in the
campaign period are significant and as we have said elsewhere
may produce a surprise. If the MDC wins at least 51 seats,
it would retain its ability to block constitutional change.
This could force ZANU-PF to negotiate with the MDC and might
lead to calls, including especially from South Africa, for a
government of national unity. This was the first time we
have heard MDC officials openly discuss such a prospect and
it was interesting to see how quickly they convinced
themselves that this could be a way forward after the
election. They could be right. Civil society activists
might accuse the MDC of selling out but if such a government
led to real change, including paving the way for Mugabe,s
departure, it might merit support.